Week seven of college football offers many more exciting match ups, with quite a few top 25 duels that will have serious playoff implications. In terms of offering new pictures of NFL draft prospects, no game is more intriguing than the Big 10 match up of Wisconsin and Ohio State (8 PM on ABC). The Badgers and the Buckeyes are both top ten teams in the country right now, with Ohio State ranked number two and Wisconsin sitting at eight. Both teams field stingy defenses, but Ohio State also has an incredibly explosive offense that will push Wisconsin to the limit. Between both teams however, there are a handful of NFL draft prospects to watch.
JT Barrett, Quarterback: JT Barrett is enjoying a very nice rebound season after having a sophomore slump last year despite a very productive freshman season. The slightly smaller (6-1, 225 lbs.) quarterback doesn’t have prototypical arm strength, but he is an NFL caliber player above the shoulders. Barrett does a great job working the OSU system and his accuracy from five to twenty yards makes him incredibly efficient moving the ball. As a plus, Barrett is a gifted athlete with dynamic running ability that can pressure a defense. He will face his biggest test of the season against Wisky’s gifted pass rush and secondary and a strong showing could help him push the issue of him being a starting caliber quarterback prospect.
Curtis Samuel, Running Back: Last year, Ohio State had the best running back in the country in Ezekiel Elliott, who went top five in the 2016 NFL draft. This year they have replaced Elliott by committee in their backfield, but the best of their running backs is probably junior, Curtis Samuel. Samuel does not have the same great size as Elliott (5-11, 195 lbs.) but he does have blazing speed and dynamic receiving ability. In fact, he is the only player in the country right now on pace to record one thousand yards rushing AND receiving. Samuel will need to be a big factor against Bucky, in both facets of the game, and it will be exciting to see such a weapon against that talented defense.
Pat Elflein, Center: Pat Elflein was one of the best linemen in the country last year, playing guard for the Buckeyes before he was moved to center this summer. He is a bit smaller (6-2, 300 lbs.) but he has excellent athletic ability, intelligence and technique. Eflein has everything you would want from a center and he will have his hands full with Wisconsin’s defensive line.
Sam Hubbard, EDGE: Joey Bosa, the third overall pick from last year, overshadowed a lot of good defenders on the Ohio State defense… Sam Hubbard being one of them. The 6-5, 266 pound pass rusher has a great frame but could stand to add a little bit of weight. He has awesome burst and bend around the edge to disrupt an offense. How will he, a lighter defender, hold up against Wisconsin’s powerful running game?
Raekwon McMillan, Linebacker: Ohio State has put two linebackers in the first round the last three drafts and Raekwon McMillan may make it a third after this season. The 6-2, 250 pound junior is incredibly smart coming downhill and plays with excellent physicality. He is not just a thumper however, as he shows excellent range and awareness that makes him dangerous in coverage. He will have an awesome test against Wisconsin’s running game and it will really put pressure on him to play his A-Game when coming downhill.
Malik Hooker, Safety: One of the big breakout players of this season is redshirt sophomore safety, Malik Hooker. The 6-2, 215 pounder has overwhelming amounts of size and speed. He is rangy and aggressive, which allows him to make plays, but he can also give some up. His size and physicality also allow him to win attacking downhill. The most incredible part is that Hooker has only been playing football for five years as he has spent most of his athletic career a star basketball player. A big game against Wisconsin will go to show that Hooker is a lot more than just a flash in the pan.
Ryan Ramczyk, Left Tackle: A Division II transfer, Ramczyk has been an absolute stud for the Badgers. He is well built, strong and plays with great toughness. He is by far the best player on Wisconsin’s offensive line and will have a massive task taking on a talented Ohio State front. Wisconsin’s offense has been inconsistent this whole season, so a strong performance from Ramczyk will be imperative to giving the Badgers a chance to move the ball.
Corey Clement, Running Back: Wisconsin has a tradition of having awesome college running abcks but Corey Clement has yet to carry that mantle forward this season. After a strong first game against LSU, injuries have held him back the last few weeks. Clement is gifted, with great size (5-11, 230 lbs.), but has yet to truly break out this season. I am sure Wisconsin would love for him to step up on a unit that lacks a major playmaker.
TJ Watt, EDGE: Yes, yes… TJ Watt is the younger brother of three time DPOY, JJ Watt. No, TJ is not that level of player. No, that is not an insult to him. In fact, TJ Watt has been one of the best and most consistent defenders in the Big 10 this season. The 6-5, 245 pounder has really excellent arm length and quickness, mixed with excellent strength. He could stand to add weight, but Watt has a bright NFL future. He will need to prove he can defend the run against more powerful teams like Ohio State and Watt’s ability to disrupt OSU’s offense will play a big part in whether Bucky can stay in the game or not.
Derrick Tindal, Safety: On Wisconsin’s scrappy defense, their biggest playmaker in the secondary has been their 5-11, 175 pound safety, Derrick Tindal. Tindal has awesome range and ball skills that allow him to create turnovers. His lack of size hurts him as a tackler, but it is not for lack of trying. How will Tindal look against OSU’s speed and can he create turnovers to give Wisconsin a chance?
Other players to watch…
Deshaun Watson, Quarterback, Clemson: After a slow start to the season, Deshaun Watson is starting to look like himself again. However, he will have a big test against a stingy NC State defense (12 PM on ABC) that stifled Deshone Kizer last week. Watson could really muddy the discussion for best quarterback if he has great success against the same defense.
Cam Robinson, Offensive Tackle, Alabama: After a great game against Arkansas, Cam Robinson will have another big test against Derek Barnett and the Tennesee Volunteers (3:30 on CBS). Robinson is likely the best offensive tackle in this upcoming draft and another dominant game against such a great pass rusher will continue to improve his resume.
Amba Etta-Tawo, Wide Receiver, Syracuse: Syracuse’s dynamic number one receiver is one of the most productive players in the country with speed to blaze down the field. He will have his biggest competition yet against a tough Virginia Tech defense (3:45 on ESPNU) that will really say something about if he is for real.
Solomon Thomas, Defensive Line, Stanford: For the first time in recent memory, the Notre Dame-Stanford match up (7:30 on NBC) involves no ranked teams. Alas, these teams are still very talented, with Notre Dame having one of the best quarterbacks in the country. In order to give the Cardinal a chance at slowing down Notre Dame’s offense, Solomon Thomas, their best defender, will have to show out against a very good Irish offensive line.